Category Archives: Special occassions

Heston Blumenthal’s the Fat Duck – Part 1

Oak moss from the course that paid homage to Alain Chapel

This post on the Fat Duck is just too long to have in one – there’s so much I want to record for posterity so that I can relive the meal –  and rather than put anyone through reading the War and Peace of one dinner, I’m separating the meal into three posts. Here’s the second and third parts).

The Fat Duck is such an indulgent treat for all your senses. Apart from divine food, the entire experience is, in a word, FUN.

There to celebrate D’s 40th, we were treated to a unique dining experience, tucked away in the village of Bray (about an hour’s drive from London). Not coming from England, even just being in a village is quaint to me, and with another Michelin starred restaurant at the Waterside Inn and Heston owning the nearby pub – the Hinds Head – this small town packs a punch per square inch in the culinary stakes.

Balls of beetroot with cream

A combination of the anticipation of the evening, and a few pre-dinner cocktails at the Hinds Head meant that we were arrived at the Fat Duck already pretty happy. The matching wine flight with our meal pretty much ensured that we left happy.

As we settled in to our champagne, we were given beetroot cream balls – balls of what I can only describe as beetroot flavoured balls of air with a slick of cream. I love beetroot – it has this wonderful earthy flavour. And to enjoy that flavour in something so delicate was the start of the meal.

I think what makes things special is attention to detail. The beetroot balls were served without any cutlery, so we had to eat them using our hands. The cutlery was laid down after this, and I was almost stunned when I realised that they had not set the cutlery the wrong way around for one of the four of us, but that they had noticed L had picked up her beetroot ball with her left hand – and was therefore left-handed. I mean, COME ON.

We then had some nitro poached aperitifs – we had a choice of vodka and lime sour, gin and tonic, or Campari soda, mixed with some egg white that was then cooked in liquid nitrogen, which is at a temperature of about -200C (-328F), so we each had a cold meringue that we popped whole in to our mouths, to experience the crisp outer shell crack and release the cocktail within.

Truffle toast at the at Duck

The truffle toast that we all wanted more more more of

We then were served a red cabbage gazpacho with pommery grain mustard ice-cream. Yep, you read right – the menu seriously screws with your head. Tangy red cabbage served on savoury ice-cream. The whole ice-cream thing really made you think you should be eating dessert but then your palate is served a savoury dish. This was paired with a 2010 Fume Blanc from Turkey.

Chicken liver parfait in a crayfish cream with jelly of quail

Chicken liver parfait in a crayfish cream with jelly of quail

Failing at not sneaking a peek at the other tables being served who were ahead of you on the meal, didn’t deter from the showmanship of the next dish – jelly of quail, with a crayfish cream, chicken liver parfait, oak moss and truffle toast. Our glasses were topped up with the same Fume Blanc and the incredible thing was how different the exact same wine tasted with different food. The first part of the dish arrived at our table – a square of moss, with four plastic containers that each held a single strip of “oak moss and pine” gelatin film that dissolved on your tongue. This is was served to prepare us for the parfait of chicken liver in a crayfish cream and a sliver of jelly of quail and truffle course. The chicken liver parfait in the crayfish cream was silky smooth, paired perfectly with the crunch-teeny-tiny-wish-there-was-more toast speckled with flecks of pungent truffles. As we were served this part of the course, the waiter tipped water on to the oak moss, which was sitting on some dry ice, so you felt like you were enjoying an early morning walk amongst the mist in a forest.

Heston Blumenthal's snail porridge

Snail porridge

Next was one of Heston’s signature dishes, the famous snail porridge. Poached snails and thin shavings of fennel on top of tiny squares of oatmeal in a vibrant green complex savoury porridge of parsley, butter, garlic, shallots, almonds, Iberico ham and dijon mustard. I have to admit, the idea of a savoury porridge was almost appealing to me – Chinese congee or rice porridge is a favourite of mine, but eating the snail porridge with oatmeal was truly a surprisingly delicious treat. A dry and crisp 2011 Chateauneuf du Pape, Clos la Rocquete from the Rhone Valley was paired with this course.

Roasted foie gras with barberry, braised kombu and crab biscuit at the Fat Duck

Roast foie gras with barberry, braised kombu and crab biscuit

Perfectly roasted foie gras with barberry, braised kombu and crab biscuit was served next, paired with a 2011 Pinot Gris, Signature, Rene Mure from Alsace. Bursting with flavour, the pillow-light softness of the the foie gras with its savoury flavour was completely in harmony with the crispness and sweetness of the crab biscuit.again. A wafer thin slice of kombu added umami to the dish.

That’s six out of 14 courses. This might be a three-post post – I’d better get cracking on the next courses !


Waku Ghin’s signature sea urchin with botan shrimp and Oscietre caviar

Tetsuya Wakuda is one of my favourite chefs from my visits to Tetsuya’s in Sydney – back in Rozelle and also when it moved to Kent Street. I have always admired his ability to pair pure and distinct flavours so beautifully. I finally got to go to Waku Ghin at Marina Bay Sands this week, and what a treat it was.

Your meal is served primarily in small 8-seater rooms in front of a teppanyaki grill and with your personal chef for the evening. Counter seating is always my preference – it gives you an opportunity to talk to the chef, see the produce, watch him cook, and also sneakily take a peek at what others are ordering to inspire you to try new things.

With a set 10-course degustation menu, you don’t get the chance to do the latter, but we did get a preview of the first course from the other couple who were seated in our room and who had arrived before us. By the third course, the team at Tetsuya had deftly managed to catch the four of us up so we were all served the remaining savoury courses at the same time.

Chilled white asparagus soup with white miso and Oscietre caviar

We started with a chilled cream of white asparagus soup with white miso cream and Oscietre caviar. What a way to start a meal. The soup was so silky and so full of flavour of the delicate white asparagus you really wished there was more (that was the common theme for all the dishes during the evening, actually).

Second was Waku Ghin’s signature dish – marinated botan shrimp with sea urchin and Oscietre caviar, stunningly presented in a half shell of sea urchin. To be eaten with a mother-of-pearl spoon, you are recommended to eat every mouthful with a bit of all three, and with each you get the sweetness of the prawn and sea urchin and the explosion of saltiness from the caviar. This has got to be up there as one of my favourite dishes ever.

Slow-cooked John Dory with roasted eggplant

Third course was slow-cooked John Dory with roasted eggplant and a chicken stock reduction. Our chef explained to us how they made the chicken stock and the laborious and complex processes to ensure only the clean flavour of the chicken was extracted and reduced. An odd pairing with fish and eggplant, and I think the chicken stock reduction tied the dish together well.

Australian abalone with fregola, rocket, seaweed and tomato

Next up was fresh Australian abalone, simply seared on the teppan and served with fregola, tomato, rocket and seaweed. This was about as rare as I have ever had abalone, miles away from the more chewy abalone you usually get at Chinese banquets. This was fresh and succulent and sweet and presented in this way almost was like eating it straight from the sea.

Braised Canadian lobster with tarragon

Braised Canadian lobster came next, quintessentially French-style, in a stock made from the lobster shells, finished with butter and tarragon. Again, the lobster was cooked so that it was just to the point past being raw, allowing the sweetness and the tenderness of the lobster to shine.

The beautifully marbled Japanese Ohmi wagyu roll

Two beef dishes followed. The first was charcoal grilled fillet of Tasmanian grass-fed  beef with Tetsuya’s own-brand wasabi mustard. The chef seared these in front of us on the teppan before slicing them into bite-sized pieces of beef so tender you felt that you could cut it with a butter knife. Nothing fancy here, just a fillet of beef on your plate and tasted great with or without the wasabi mustard.

Japanese Ohmi wagyu roll with wasabi and citrus soy

Japanese Ohmi wagyu roll from Shiga Prefecture came next. Just looking at the gorgeous marbling on the raw beef filled the room with oohs and aahs. I think it was because we knew that that marbling would be melt-in-the-mouth flavour once cooked. It was served with freshly-grated wasabi, fried garlic slices, thinly sliced Japanese negi and a citrus soy dipping sauce. Similar to the fillet, I tried the beef on its own and then with a little bit of all the condiments and in this instance, the inclusion of everything made the marvelous wagyu sing in your mouth.

Consommé with rice and snapper

Final savoury dish was a consommé with rice and snapper followed with a palate-cleansing cup of gyokuro, tea made from green tea that has been grown in the shade. A touch of yuzu zest to the consommé lifted the dish making it a clean and refreshing end to the meal. And the tea, which was brewed with water at just 40C had a distinct savoury, seaweed flavour. Absolutely perfect example of umami.

Selection of exquisite petit fours to end a perfect meal

We were almost sad to be moved out of our private dining area to a more traditional dining area to eat have our final two courses of dessert – mostly because it was an indication that the meal was coming to its end. I have to be totally honest and say that Tetsuya’s desserts have never wowed me the same way his savoury dishes do, and this was no different. We were served a cold soup of strawberry with lychee and coconut and what turned out to be my birthday cake, a milk chocolate cake with caramel and citrus. Both were delicious – as were the petit fours, but my memory of Waku Ghin is firmly, and happily, within the walls of the private dining room.

Waku Ghin
Casino Level 2
Access lifts located:
B1 & Opposite ArtBox at Level 1
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Tel: +65 6688 8507

Open for lunch on Fridays 11.30am – 1.30pm
Dinner two seatings 6pm and 8.30pm


Happy Mother’s Day !

My mum’s tomato salad with cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, goat’s feta and mint

I was fortunate to be in Sydney with my Mum on Mother’s Day over the weekend. Sydney put on the most spectacular weather for us and we decided on such a glorious day we would have fresh oysters and prawns from the Sydney Fish Markets, and enjoy them on the balcony with a bottle of champagne.

While dad and I were out buying the seafood, Mum made us the best tomato salad for lunch. Simple and delicious, letting the ingredients speak for themselves. Cherry tomatoes in red, yellow, green and brown, each with a slightly different taste, kalamata olives, goat’s feta, olive oil and mint.

It looked so good on the plate you began eating it with your eyes. Thanks Mum – so glad to have been able to spend the afternoon with you (and of course Dad too !).

I hope everyone else had as wonderful a Mother’s Day with their families and wish all Mother’s a Happy Mother’s Day !


Happy New Year !

As the end of 2011 ticks closer and closer, I’d like to thank all of you for sharing your lives with me and allowing me to share mine with you.

Here’s to a sparkling 2012 filled with fun and most importantly, more great food adventures !

I leave you with a photograph of my hometown Sydney and their fireworks spectacular over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. It’s a cheat photo from a previous year but I do wish was there with my family.

HAPPY NEW YEAR !!!


Merry Messy Christmas !

A wonderful way to celebrate anything

I love a Sunday champagne brunch. Add it being Christmas so that someone else cooks you an enormous array of food with none of the stress of having to cook, and more importantly, none of the washing up, and that makes a pretty good way to spend any afternoon in my books.

D and I were family-less in Singapore this year, so we were adopted out to a friend’s family who were visiting from the UK, and we decided to celebrate Christmas with them at the gorgeous Fullerton Hotel.

Roasted turkey with Yorkshire pudding and gravy

The hotel extended their usual brunch area to include the other restaurants and half of the lobby so we were literally surrounded by happy, festive people, and a lot food.

The essentials for Christmas – roast turkey, ham, beef and lamb were on offer with all the trimmings, in addition to the standard brunch fare of cold seafood, Asian roast meats (char siew, roast pork and duck), breakfast station, and the appetiser station. And of course let’s not forget the sweets, for which the Fullerton outdid itself this year. I think I counted three dessert tables that included a chocolate fountain and so much cheese I found it hard to find my favourites.

Selection of appetisers – foie gras on a fig compote, champagne truffle risotto and roasted pumpkin ravioli

And with a glass of Moet champagne that was attentively never less than half full throughout the four hours we were there and we had a very, very, merry (and messy) Christmas ! I hope everyone had a wonderful festive weekend with family and friends as well !


Birthday dinner at Restaurant André

Vanilla popcorn

***warning this is going to be a long post but as it’s about my birthday please indulge me*** I love birthdays. It’s the one time of the year that it’s completely ok for it to be all about you. Some birthdays you want them big and brassy with everyone you know and love around you, others you want something more understated. This year I was going with the latter. There was just so much going on with family visiting and work commitments that I just wanted to go somewhere stellar for dinner with close friends.

Chicken skin with marsala

I chose Restaurant André for a few reasons. First, we were lucky enough to sample André Chiang’s talent when he was running Jaan Par Andre and we were keen to see how he’d evolved with his own restaurant. Secondly D went for a friend’s 40th while I was in Sydney last and the food sounded amazing. I really love how Chef André brings his influence of his Taiwanese background and his French training and experience to his food (he worked in France for 14 years, training at some of that country’s most acclaimed restaurants, including Le Jardin de Sens, Pierre Gagnaire and L’Atelier Joel Robuchon).

From the moment you walk in, you know you’re somewhere different. Special. From the ambient light cast by smoked glass Edison bulbs to the fact that the place can seat a maximum of 30 guests, you get a sense of understated glamour that is relaxed and comfortable. Bordering on pretentious ? I would screw up my nose and reluctantly disagree. They clearly put a lot of thought and effort into this venture right down to the tiniest detail and I felt there was a fantastic try – not try-hard – effort.

I’ll reserve final judgement of the experience till later – let me share the food first.

There are eight courses in the evening, of which the minimalist menu doesn’t really help other than share the eight words that define the chef’s culinary approach – Pure, Salt, Artisan, South, Texture, Unique, Memory, Terroirs. Grateful for a wine pairing option with the courses, we settled into the start of our evening.

Onion and porcini tart

We started with four canapés – marsala chicken skin, an onion and porcini tart, vanilla popcorn and amberjack in cylinders of toast topped with shaved parmesan.

The chicken skin tasted exactly like chicken skin but the paper-thinness of it really challenged my palette and brain. The onion and porcini tart was less of a tart and more of a savoury wafer dusted with the rich, almost meaty flavour of the porcini. The amberjack cylinders were good but not all that interesting and popcorn I think let the quartet down. It had the texture of slightly chewy, stale popcorn and I just don’t think it complemented the rest of the dishes on the plate.

I did notice lots of baby herb leaves and flowers, which Chef Andre told us he grew on the restaurant premises. The baby leaves imparted a much more delicate flavour to each morsel.

Scallop ravioli with purple cauliflower consommé

Our first course was “Pure” – raw scallop with seaweed wrapped around Japanese chives in a beautiful lavender consommé made from purple cauliflower. The entire dish was unseasoned, letting the ingredients impart only their own individual flavours. It was delicate, clean and absolutely gorgeous. This was one of my favourite dishes of the evening.

Fresh oyster with seawater jelly and green apple foam

The next offering was “Salt” – a bowl dotted with tiny squares of green apple, with a raw oyster encased in seawater jelly with green apple foam. I love oysters, but I think the seawater jelly overpowered the delicate flavour of everything on the dish, including the oyster, and I’m not convinced about the green apple and oyster combination. Jury’s still out on this one.

From “South” – cured flounder sashimi with persimmon and seaweed and persimmon and tomato sorbet

Next course was “Artisan” – very fresh, very baby corn, from Chef Andre’s hometown in Taiwan, served simply steamed and with crispy chips of salsify and ground macadamia nuts, and salt and pepper. The delicate sweetness of the corn was enhanced by just a tiny dip in the salt/pepper mound.

Cured mackerel with prawns and razor clams with shellfish foam on a bed of risotto

“South” followed next, influenced by time spent in the south of France. The dish came in two parts. The first was cured flounder sashimi on persimmon with seaweed and a persimmon and tomato sorbet. It seemed more Japanese than south of France to me, but never having been there, the dish was delicious. Again, delicate flavours complemented each other well. As they did with the second part to South – a dish of cured mackerel, raw prawn and razor clams on a bed of risotto rice with shellfish foam and another sliced fish that unfortunately I can’t recall.

Cauliflower puree with risotto in black rice squid ink crackers

“Texture” came on a rectangular slate slab (I believe Chef Andre makes these as he is an avid potter) with a carefully constructed ball of cauliflower puree with risotto encased in black arborio rice squid ink crackers. The waiter told us that he would “leave it to [us] to figure this dish out”. A few chews and we discovered that the risotto grains were actually tiny pieces of squid ! So surprising and exactly the sort of dish that makes this chef stand out.

Salt-baked black chicken egg with iberico ham and truffles

Next up, “Unique” which married pretty much every delicious thing on this earth in one plate – a black chicken egg that had been baked in rock salt, toped with iberico ham and truffles. Add morel mushrooms and a veal jus and you have a truly unique way of enjoying ham, eggs and mushrooms 🙂

Foie gras jelly with black truffle coulis

“Memory” was probably my other favourite dish of the evening. Reminiscent (for me) of the incredible foie gras mousse from Jaan, this dish was a warm foie gras jelly with black truffle coulis. Again, chef André managed to combine classic flavours in remarkably innovative ways to surprise the diner’s palette.

Braised beef shortrib with fresh peppercorns, peas and celeriac mousse

The final dish was the main course or “Terroir”. I don’t eat lamb so chef prepared a similar dish to the one he showcased at the Masterclass I attended – braised beef shortrib with fresh peppercorns, served with peas, celeriac mousse and dehydrated olives.

Dessert was a birthday cake for me (awwww) that was Snickers 2011 – again, similar to the one he prepared at the Masterclass but this time just that little more sophisticated. Different textures of chocolate and hazelnut make a super rich, super delicious dessert.

The only thing that I would say let the evening down was the wine pairing which seemed sporadic and not timed very well with the dishes that came out – we had only white wine glasses on our table when the black chicken egg and iberico ham dish was served, for example. They make such a big deal out of the fact that the wines they source are from boutique vineyards, the sommelier really didn’t share as much as we would have thought other than telling us the vineyard name, the region and the year of each wine.

At a restaurant that only serves one menu that is dictated by the chef, it’s almost impossible to walk away loving every dish. I think Chef André has taken the opportunity to put his unique touch to his dishes that he may not have had when working for Jaan. It’s certainly a restaurant you reserve for special occasions – this is a truly great dining experience. Loved it. Thanks to D and K and J who kept me company !

Restaurant André
41 Bukit Pasoh Road
Singapore
Tel 6534 8880


Friendship Attics – strange name, great place for a special birthday

Steamed egg in tomato

Cantonese restaurants are everywhere in Sydney.  And the standard of most of them are pretty damn good.  So what is it that makes one more of a favourite for me than others ?

My dad recently turned 70, and my mum organised a surprise birthday bash with 70 of his oldest and closest friends.  And she organised it at Friendship Attics.  From Singapore, I was left wondering what on earth is Friendship Attics, and why there ? When I got to Sydney that week and we went to recee the place, so we knew how to set up etc, I found out why.

1) It’s not an enormous restaurant that can seat 700 guests.  It comfortably fit all of my dad’s friends and we got to book out the entire restaurant, keeping it cosy and intimate.

2) The staff were so helpful and so friendly and truly made having the event there a breeze

3) The food !  Typical Cantonese fare, but mum selected the menu and boy did she choose well.

First course of cold cuts

We started with the traditional banquet first course of a selection of cold starters: jellyfish, various cold cuts of pork and of course, crispy suckling pig.

broccoli with crab meat

The rest of the meal just seemed to be endless dish after dish, but the standouts for me were the lobster with ginger and shallots, the green green broccoli with crab meat (made eating greens a breeze), fish cooked two ways (deep fried head and tail with stir fried fillets, and steamed egg in tomato.  Sounds weird, looks weird, tastes terrific.

Of course there was “longevity noodles” – long strands of ee-fu noodles which are meant to signify long life.

Friendship Attics’ location is close enough to Darling Park on Sussex Street that there is no real need to make the trek to Chinatown to fight for carspace or the crowds to get a great yum cha as well.

Friendship Attics Chinese Restaurant
321 Sussex Street, Sydney
Tel: 9261 2177


Gong Xi Fa Cai !

Yu sang – prosperity salad

Happy Lunar New Year !  This post is dedicated to the star of our Chinese new year dinner – yu sang, or prosperity salad, which we started our dinner with at the Red House at Robertson Quay.

Yu sang (also called lo hei in Cantonese) is essentially a raw fish – usually salmon or mackerel – mixed in a salad of shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments.  As with most special Chinese dishes, the dish is named after the key ingredient – in this case, fish – which, when pronounced, has another meaning – abundance.  So the serving of yu sang during Chinese new year is to wish everyone an abundance of prosperity, vigour, health…all the good things to start a new year with.

Steamed razor clams with garlic and glass noodles

The salad ingredients are presented and as the server proceeds to add ingredients such as the fish, the crackers and the sauces, they say auspicious wishes as each ingredient is added, typically related to the specific ingredient being added. For example, the sweet sauce they add is meant to wish all at the table sweetness and harmony in their lives, the oil that is added wishes a smooth year ahead, and the fish wishes abundance.

All the diners at the table then stand up and on cue, proceed to toss the shredded ingredients into the air with chopsticks while saying their own wishes for the year out loud. It is believed that the height of the toss reflects the height of the diner’s growth in fortunes, thus diners are expected to toss enthusiastically.

It’s such a fun way to celebrate the lunar new year.  And it helps that the salad is delicious !

Braised tofu topped with seaweed and mushrooms

Red House is quite unique in it’s interior design – it felt as if we had walked in to a restaurant that was housed in a large warehouse and that had started to fit it with the usual Chinese restaurant design – lanterns, wooden tables and chairs etc, but had only completed the fish tanks and the private rooms.  The main dining area felt almost unfinished with industrial steel fans on the ceiling.  The acoustics of the place are not great for the large tables they have in there, meaning you have to really shout and also making hearing your friends/family difficult.  The food is not bad – I think there is a pretty decent standard for seafood restaurants and the dishes they prepared were good, but no greater than any other Chinese seafood restaurant available around Singapore.

Lobster noodles

We ate the set menu on offer, which consisted of stir-fried asparagus, steamed razor clams with garlic and glass noodles, steamed prawns, chilli crab, braised home-made tofu topped with seaweed and mushrooms and lobster noodles.  All good.  Although nothing that stood out.

The benefit of eating at Robertson Quay is all of the bars that have popped up around that area, where you can take a slow stroll by the river to get to.  If you’re lucky like we were last night, there will be a lovely cool breeze, making it even more pleasant.

All in all a wonderful way to herald in the lunar new year.  Gong xi fa cai everyone !

Red House at The Quayside
#01-13/ 14 The Quayside
60 Robertson Quay
Tel: +65 6735 7666


Chinese New Year goodies

Kueh bangkit

The lunar new year is around the corner, which means lots of celebrations (which go for 15 days), primarily through eating and drinking with family and friends.

Leading up to lunar new year, treats are often shared, and this post is dedicated to my favourite Hokkien festive treats of cakes and cookies.

I have three favourites, although there are many more – kueh kapit, pineapple tarts and kueh bangkit.

Kueh kapit

Kueh kapit are delicate wafers that are made from a very thin batter made of coconut milk, rice and tapioca flour, sugar and eggs, that is poured onto cast-iron moulds – etched with graphic and symbolic representations of flowers, birds or animals – and then baked over charcoal.

I used to make them with my family when I was very young.  My grandmother, the expert who would patiently sit over the charcoal with the cast-iron moulds, would pour the batter to make sure the entire mould was evenly coated and check again and again to get just the right amount of colour on the kueh – too light meant the batter was not cooked properly, too dark meant the biscuit would be bitter. Once the batter was cooked she would quickly remove them from the still-hot moulds (she had chef fingers and didn’t seem to ever burn her fingers on the hot iron) and place them on a plate and then get back to battering the mould to make the next biscuit.  Then it was my sister’s and my turn to work quickly while the crepe was still pliable, folding the round crepe into a triangular fan shape.  (We also got to eat the “mistakes” heehee).  It was time consuming and labour intensive, and I have very fond memories of the family bonding while we made these.

Kueh kapit are also called Love Letters, and the history of these is that they were a way for lovers to communicate in olden times – the edible quality of the messages ensured the absence of proof and consumption of the heartfelt message was also seen as a sign that the lover’s words had been taken to heart.

Pineapple tarts

The origins of pineapple tarts is not as poetic as kueh kapit – pineapple in hokkien is ong lai, which literally translated is “prosperity has come”, and serving and eating pineapple tarts is thought to bring good luck and prosperity to the house. Fresh pineapple is grated and slowly cooked over a low heat until it all the sugars have caramelised.  This mixture is then traditionally placed on top of a medallion of butter pastry. Variations have come about where the pineapple is completely encased in pastry – this is the favourite in our house because I think the pastry seems to melt on your tongue before you get to the almost chewy pineapple.

Kueh bangkit

Kueh bangkit – tapioca cookies – are traditional nonya cookies and their history is hard to find.  From what I can gather, they were originally used for alter offerings for the ancestors and/or for the departed to spend in their next life, and hence were made in the shape of the currency of ancient China. Today they are made in various animal or floral shapes with their own symbolic meaning such as goldfish (prosperity), butterflies (afterlife), peonies (faith) and chrysanthemums (fortune). Each cookie traditionally was marked with a red dot, which I would love to know the meaning of, so please, if you know, post the answer in the comments section.

Made from tapioca flour, eggs and coconut milk they are sweet bite-sized morsels that bursts into dry powdery bits when bitten and then immediately melt in your mouth. The perfect kuih bangkit has to be dry and crispy and light as a feather and almost ‘hollow’ sounding when you tap it. Apparently horrendously difficult to perfect, I am quite happy to buy ones that someone has slaved over to make.

Actually, all three of these, as well as most Chinese New Year treats, are all time consuming and very fiddly to make.  I suppose from my experience from long ago with the kueh kapit, the idea is that it is not just about the eating of the treats, but it’s time spent as a family making them and promoting family unity for the lunar new year.  More to come on other food around the new year. Gong xi fa cai !


Christmas roast

Roasted pork belly

Last year I roasted a turkey for the first and last time. Not that I didn’t like the finished product, there was just so much of it leftover, and with just D and I, turkey leftovers get a little boring, no matter how you try to dress them up.

This year, D will have to do without turkey, as I have the special present of my parents visiting, and I’m reverting to a family tradition of making roast pork for my family.

I’m lucky to live in Singapore where I have easy access to lots and lots of pork belly, my favourite cut of pork to roast.  It’s such a tasty cut of meat, due to the layers of fat between the meat that seem to almost melt once roasted, just basting the meat in tasty goodness and keeping the meat tender and moist.

A little preparation can also give you brilliantly crispy crackling.  Simply pat the meat dry and score the skin every 1 cm (you can also ask your butcher to do this for you).  A great trick is to use a stanley knife – it’s a bit rudimentary, but it works a treat in giving you evenly deep cuts into the skin without any stress at all.

Coat the entire cut of meat in oil, and then rub a liberal amount of salt into the skin, making sure you get salt into the scores.  Then pop into the fridge, uncovered, for a few hours or overnight if you can.  Both the salt and the fridge draw the moisture out of the skin to ensure a really cracking crackling.

Bring the meat out of the oven an hour or two before roasting to bring it to room temperature.

Brush off the excess salt, and then season the entire cut on all sides, above and below with salt and pepper.

Pop onto a roasting tray, and into a hot oven at 230C for 30 minutes to get the crackling going.  Then lower the temperature to 180C for an hour – an hour and a half if you’ve got a huge piece of pork belly.  Because pork belly is a thin-ish cut of meat, it doesn’t take a long time in the oven, but also because of the layers of fat, it’s a forgiving meat to leave in the oven for longer at a low temperature.

Leave out to rest for at least 30 minutes before tucking in.  This will give you time to make gravy with the juices in the tray.

Haricot vert, potatoes roasted in duck fat, honey-glazed carrots

Serve with roasted potatoes (I’m doing mine in duck fat for a more festive touch – if only I could find goose fat !), roasted onions, garlic, leeks and any other vegetables that you can find in your fridge.